Shepherd Canyon Projects

Shepherd Canyon Homeowners and Boy Scouts Team Up for a historic project in Shepherd Canyon

The Project.   It has been an exciting project to place a series of 4 interpretive signs to tell the history of Shepherd Canyon, and also to place 3 new benches, all along trails in Shepherd Canyon Park.  The signs tell the story of events which were significant in shaping our neighborhood, while the benches provide a setting along the trail for rest and contemplation.  There’s a lot of talk about making the world more pedestrian friendly, but we are making this important pedestrian connection between Shepherd Canyon and Montclair Village even more usable.

The fours signs are:

  • The Railroad History of Shepherd Canyon
  • The Highway77 that Almost Was
  • The Shepherd Canyon Corridor Plan
  • A Scenic Overview of Shepherd Canyon

The first three signs are along the Railroad trail that follows the old Sacramento Northern Railroad right-of way, along with two of the benches. The fourth sign is at the summit of the new trail above the soccer field that goes from behind the Restroom up to Escher Road.  The third bench is planned nearby this summit- a great location for a break after the climb or to enjoy the bay view.  The new trail has been descried by some as Nature’s Stairmaster– it’s a great aerobic workout to climb the hill to the summit. At the trail head on Escher Road is the Torri Gate.

The signs and benches are being undertaken jointly between the Shepherd Canyon Homeowner’s Association, and Boy Scouts Daniel Levi and Matt Forman as part of their Eagle Scout projects.  Daniel took on the sign design, bringing subject matter expertise about his passion-Railroad History- and then working with residents on the post railroad neighborhood history.  Daniel installed two of the signs. Matt Forman installed the other two signs and worked with the Parks and Rec Department to design and install three benches. 

More about the Interpretive Sign Content

Here’s a little more background on the signs in the narrative below, and you can download the actual sign’s graphics at the following links.

It’s a story of railroads, evolving transportation needs, urban planning, and the events that shaped the hill’s neighborhood identity of Shepherd Canyon. 

At one level, these interpretive signs tell the story of the history of the inter Urban Railroads of a by gone era.  They also tell the story of changing transportation needs, as the popularity of the automobile in the 1950s marked the end of the Sacramento Northern Railroad, which from the 1800s had passed through Montclair Village and Shepherd Canyon on the way through to the East Bay.   This same increase in automobile use also required setting aside a greater portion of land for highways.  In fact, CALTRANS bought the railroad right of way because they saw Shepherd Canyon as a prime location for Highway 77, which they had planned to extend from Park Boulevard, with a cloverleaf at Highway 13, through Shepherd Creek near Scout Road, then joining the former Sacramento Northern railroad right of way along Shepherd Canyon Road, and heading out to the Orinda walnut Creek Area.  CALTRANS bought up land in Shepherd Canyon starting in the 1950s for Highway 77.  However, by the 1970s interest in alternative modes of transportation drew attention to the fact that CALTRANS had planned Highway 77 prior to the advent of BART, and only two miles from then existing Highway 24.  In an effort both to encourage alternative modes of transportation, and to preserve Shepherd Canyon, which was then one of the largest undeveloped areas in Oakland, residents worked with Sate Assembly Member Ken Meade to cancel the Highway 77 Plans.

On another level, the signs also tell the story of community activism, first to cancel the highway and then to plan what was to happen next with the CALTRANS land.  Once the highway was cancelled, CALTRANS had excess property on their hands, they needed to sell.  To prevent haphazard development, residents worked with both CALTRANS and the City of Oakland, to create the Shepherd Canyon Corridor Plan.   The City of Oakland conducted one of the first Environmental Impact Reports (EIR’s) in California, under a then new statute called the California Envrionmental Qaulity Act (CEQA), and issued a development moratorium on new development until the plan could be completed.

The result was the Shepherd Canyon Corridor Plan, which still today shapes the use of Shepherd Canyon.  As part of this plan, Shepherd Canyon Road, then called upper Park Boulevard, got its current name.  Another result was that 34 acres, was set aside for public use and named Shepherd Canyon Park. The park includes not only the “soccer field”, which passersby readily recognize, but also a much larger Resource Conservation area.  Shepherd Creek (which now runs freely from the south end of the soccer field, below Fire Station24, to Scout road) was saved from being filled in under highway footings.  Provisions were made for specific parcels of land to be bought from CALTRANS, “at cost”, provided they be used for alternative transportation as trails. The old railroad right of way now provides a pleasant stroll for residents of Shepherd Canyon to walk to Montclair Village.  


These improvements were created through a Task Force composed of neighbors of Shepherd Canyon and the city, including the District 4 City Council Office, the Mayors office, and may city departments, including Parks and Rec, and Public works and City Planning.

The Shepherd Canyon Homeowners Association continues to work with the city to maintain the park.  
These signs continue to improve the pedestrian experience to provide exercise and enjoyment for people of all ages.